One of the most familiar styles of Chinese porcelain to the West is the famille-rose palette.

Famille-rose literally translates as ‘pink family’ and is the French name for the enamels introduced around the end of the 1720’s to be used on porcelain. This takes its name from the rose-coloured enamel that makes up the characteristic colour within the palette. Other significant colours within the palette are yellow and white.

Towards the end of the Kangxi period, foreign red-oxide based enamels were introduced and it can be said that these were the forerunners of the palette, which became prevalent in the Yongzheng and Qianlong periods.

The palette seems to have been influenced by European taste and demand, also employing new, foreign techniques learnt from the Jesuits working in the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the foreign influences were perhaps one of the reasons for the name yang cai, ‘foreign colours’ to be associated.  The palette could be fired at lower temperatures than the Kanxi wucai enamels and had a wider range of colours. It also appeared softer and prettier, gaining it’s other name, ruan cai, ‘soft colours’.

The best examples of famille-rose wares date from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735). During this time, famille-rose wares were in their peak in terms of popularity, replacing Kangxi famille-verte and became the dominant over glaze decoration.

During the Qianlong period, techniques were further developed. Details of decoration were filled in within outlines and more colours appeared as backgrounds. Enamels were not only painted on white porcelain ground but on coloured grounds as well. Designs also became increasingly intricate.

Famille-rose wares became desirable foreign exports for the middle classes of Europe and the west as they were deemed to show sophisticated taste.

Many varieties of subject matter can be seen on famille-rose pieces, as the palette allowed for wider range than previous famille-verte and so many plates and dishes emerged, painted with figures, flowers and foliage, animals and insects, which were created for export, as well as entire armorial services that were commissioned for noble high ranking families.

Famille-rose pieces represent fantastic value as it is affordable and within reach for even modest pockets, we have a stock of pieces with dishes beginning at a few hundred pounds. They are a good entry into collecting Chinese porcelain.


“Dancing Couple” (R7849)
Famille rose figural group of a dancing couple, modelled after the Meissen original, the gentleman wearing a yellow hat, white-ruff collar, blue waist jacket incised with scrolls and red breeches, the lady with a red waist coat similarly incised and long flowing skirt with purple flowers, all on a shaped naturalistic form base, modelled and moulded with relief flowers.

5 5/8 inches, 14.3 cm high.
Qianlong, circa 1752.
*From an English private collection.
Condition: Edge chip on lady’s robe and one flower missing on the base.